Tesla announced in Nov. the location of its fourth Gigafactory: a village of less than 9,000 souls called Grunheide, some 23 miles east of Berlin.
The automaker would need to clear 740 acres of forest for the factory, which will produce up to 500,000 cars per year. The factory will employ as many as 12,000 people. Bloomberg reported that plans for the factory have already lured more investment into the village of Grunheide; some developers have plied local leadership with plans for 22-story apartment high-rises and massive malls.
But locals are pushing back. On Jan. 18, a group of some 250 protesters gathered in Grunheide to make clear their distaste for Elon Musk’s plans.
The protests were sparked by a report from a water association representing Brandenberg, a German state with 2.5 million residents. That report indicated Tesla would require more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour — which would deplete local reserves.
Others are concerned that the factory would contaminate local drinking water, reported Deutsche Welle. This inspired signs like “no factory in the forest” and “Tesla or drinking water.”
Tesla did not return Business Insider’s request for a statement.
“I am not against Tesla,” environmental activist Anne Bach told Reuters. “But it’s about the site; in a forest area that is a protected wildlife zone. Is this necessary?”
Germans’ critique of the factory didn’t start on Jan. 18. Conversationalists have studied the potential risks of the factory since the site was announced in November.
Friedhelm Schmitz-Jersch, the chairman of the Nature Conservation Association (NABU) in Brandenburg, previously told Business Insider Deutschland that the factory could threaten a species of bat. “We need to start mapping out which species need to be taken into account,” he said in an interview with Business Insider.
A counterprotest also emerged — albeit a much smaller one. Around 30 people held banners with messages like “construct instead of frustrate” and “Elon, I want a car from you,” reported Deutsche Welle.
Germans, on the whole, are more worried than Americans about the environment. A 2018 Pew survey revealed that 71% of Germans say climate change is a “major threat” to their country, compared to 59% of Americans and 68% of the average earthling.
“In such an ecological system like the one here and with the background that climate is changing, I cannot understand why another location was not selected from the beginning,” Frank Gersdorf, whose group “Citizens’ Initiative Gruenheide against Gigafactory” organized the protest, told Reuters.